Part 2 out of 4
Jones was saved.
Even though it could be shown beyond a doubt that Corbut had been
murdered in a flat which was rented by Jones, that would not prove that
Jones had done it.
The murderer was evidently the man who had ridden in the cab with
Corbut. And Harrigan, the only witness, had failed to recognize Jones as
The suspicion must instantly arise that a plot had been carefully laid,
with the purpose of putting the crime upon Jones.
Some enemy had signed his name on the register, and the same cruel
wretch had decoyed Corbut to the vacant flat and murdered him there. It
was easy to suppose that the criminal knew the flat to be empty and had
obtained a key.
It might have been by this secret enemy's connivance that the trunks
were removed and sent to Gaspard.
But if Hammond was the wretch who had done all this, why had he
All these and many other thoughts must have rushed through the mind of
the superintendent, in the pause which followed Hammond's declaration.
Byrnes looked at Nick for an explanation.
"This is an extraordinary statement, Mr. Hammond," said Nick. "Have you
any evidence to support it?"
"I have ample evidence. I was seen in the company of the woman now
dead, not fifty yards from the restaurant on the night when she met her
death. I can call one of the most prominent and respected men in this
city to prove that. The Rev. Elliot Sandford is the man."
This name produced a great impression.
"Why has he kept silence?" asked Nick.
"He promised me that he would do so as long as his conscience would
permit. I called upon him on the morning after the crime.
"He believed me when I asserted my innocence. He agreed to be silent for
the sake of my family."
"But who is the dead woman?" asked Nick.
"I have not the least idea."
"You did not know her!"
"No. Let me tell the full story. It was a chance acquaintance. I met her
on the street that afternoon.
"I was walking behind her on Twenty-third street. You know what
wonderful hair she had. I was admiring it.
"Suddenly I saw her drop a little purse. I picked it up and handed it to
her, and somehow we fell into conversation.
"Her manner mystified me. Sometimes she seemed to be laboring under some
secret grief which nearly drove her to tears. In another moment she
would be apparently as merry as a schoolgirl.
"She showed no reserve whatever, but something in her manner warned me
that she was a lady, and I did not presume upon her confidence.
"We walked together a long while, and at last we found ourselves near
that restaurant. How we came there I do not know. I paid no attention to
where we were going. T was too much fascinated by my companion.
"Suddenly she said: 'It is late and I am hungry. Let us go to dinner.'
"I thought it a strange thing to say, but I was glad enough to comply.
We went into that restaurant because it was right before us.
"I signed the first name that came into my head, and then Corbut showed
us into the private dining-room.
"I ordered a dinner, but before it was served, I began to be a good deal
surprised at my companion's behavior. She paced up and down the room,
and every now and then she listened at the door which was between us and
"'I have all a woman's curiosity,' she said, 'I'd like to hear what
those people are saying over their dinner.'
"I tried to make her sit down, and playfully took hold of her. Then I
made a discovery which frightened me.
"The woman had a pistol in her pocket.
"Suddenly she turned upon me and exclaimed:
"'What shall we do after dinner? I'll tell you what I'd like. I want to
go to the theater. Let's see something real funny. Yes, I must go. You
run out now and get the tickets. There's a place just down the street
where they're sold. You can get back before your dinner is cold.'
"Of course, it was perfectly plain that she was trying to get rid of me.
Well, I had no objection. That pistol had scared me badly. I didn't want
to be mixed up in a scandal.
"So I took my hat and cleared out. But once on the street, my courage
came back, and also my curiosity. I wanted to know more of that strange
"I bought the theater tickets and hurried back. I opened the door of
"You know what I saw. She sat there dead, with the pistol by her side.
She had committed suicide.
"I rushed out with the intention of calling for help, but fear overcame
me. I looked around into the hall. This man Gaspard was at the desk.
"I dared not summon him. I turned and ran."
Hammond ceased, and a sigh ran around the room. Nick could read relief
in all the faces. The mystery was solved. The innocent man was no longer
to suffer under unjust suspicion.
That was what could be seen in the faces. Hammond's words had the ring
of truth. Neither the superintendent nor Nick nor any other person there
doubted a single statement of his story.
"When Gaspard identified me as the man in room A," Hammond continued, "I
thought I saw a chance to save Mr. Jones very easily, and so I told a
"It was a foolish thing to do," said Nick. "The truth is always best. If
we had known at the outset what we know now, Mr. Jones might have been
spared a great deal of trouble. Since the woman committed suicide--"
"Hold on!" cried the superintendent. "How do you account for the murder
"He must have found the body and robbed it. Probably he took some money
and a diamond ring. There was the mark of a ring on her finger, but the
ring was gone.
"Corbut fled with these things. He engaged Harrigan's cab. He was
decoyed to that flat by some woman, probably, who knew that nobody was
in it, and was there murdered.
"Of course, neither Mr. nor Mrs. Jones had anything to do with it. Now,
if Mr. Jones would only explain how he happened to be at that
restaurant, the case would be clear. We know positively that he was
A great light of hope had shone in Jones' face while Hammond was telling
his story, and when Nick added his explanation of Corbut's death, the
prisoner nearly laughed for joy.
"It's true I was there," he said. "My wife and I dined in room A, and--"
"Fool!" exclaimed the woman, in a terrible voice. "Don't you see that
this is a trap?"
In her wild excitement, she covered Jones' mouth with her hand to
prevent his speaking further.
"That is true," said Nick. "It was a trap, and the wretch has fallen
into it. Jones, you have put the halter around your neck."
"No! It is a lie!" exclaimed Jones, freeing himself from the woman's
grasp. "I tell you that I was in room A. The crime, if there was a
crime, was committed in room B."
"No, it wasn't," said Nick. "It was committed in room A."
THE TRUE STORY OF MRS. JOHN JONES.
Jones fell back into his chair. The woman bit her lip till the blood
Then suddenly the color left her face. She sat up, staring straight
before her, and she did not move during the explanation which Nick gave.
While he was speaking, the detective watched her narrowly. Certainly she
was meditating some remarkable action. He wondered what it could be.
"Yes," said Nick, turning to the superintendent, "we have at last
straightened out the matter of those two rooms and their occupants.
"As to the spot where the crime was committed, I have not been in doubt
from the first.
"You will remember that the fatal wound was visible on both the woman's
temples. The bullet passed entirely through her head.
"But where was the bullet? That was the question which I asked myself at
"I could not find it in room B, where the body lay. Then I tried room A,
with no better success.
"At this point Chick took up the hunt, and carried it to the end. The
bullet was in neither room. It was just between them.
"You remember that there was a door which I found fastened upon both
"Chick opened that door, and in its framework, the wood of which was old
and soft, he found the bullet.
"The mark was covered when the door was shut. Therefore the door must
have been open when the shot was fired.
"The position of the bullet shows that the shot was fired from room A.
Then the woman, for some reason, had got into that room. She had
unlocked the door on her side and had managed to induce the persons on
the other side to slip their bolt.
"Now, why did she do this? Of course there is only one answer. Jealousy
was her motive. The man in room A was her husband.
"I have satisfied myself of that. She must have known that he was going
to dine in that house with another woman.
"It is clear that she made the acquaintance of Hammond because she was
determined to get into that restaurant, and women are not admitted
"The dropping of the purse was, of course, a very simple trick. She had
noticed Hammond behind her, and as he was evidently a gentleman, she
decided to use him for her purpose.
"You have heard how she led him to the restaurant. Of course it was only
by chance that they got the room next to that in which her husband was.
"Hammond has told how she listened to the voices, and how she got rid of
"What followed can be easily understood. She got into room A. She drew
her pistol and attempted to shoot either her faithless husband or his
"Jones disarmed her and shot her with her own pistol.
"Then he carried her into room B, and put her in that chair.
"At that moment Corbut entered, for the door of room B was not locked.
"In some way they bribed him to keep silence. They sent him into room
A, where he locked the connecting door on that side.
"Jones fastened it on the side of room B and fled. It was then that
Gaspard saw him coming out of room B. And that's what mixed the case so
"It gave us the wrong arrangement of men in those rooms. That was the
only reason why I ever doubted Jones' guilt. I was convinced that the
man who had brought the woman to the house was not the man who had shot
"You did not know, Mr. Hammond, that when you told me, in my house, that
you were the man in room A, that you practically confessed to being the
At these words, Hammond gave a dry and painful gasp. He saw what an
escape he had had.
"As to the two women," Nick continued, "it is easy to read the secret.
"Jones had two wives. The real wife, now dead, lived in the flat the
address of which Jones gave me. This woman lived in the Fifty-eighth
street flat, where Corbut was murdered.
"Jones divided his time between them. He really loved this one and
wished to be rid of the other.
"His true wife surprised his secret at last, and it led her to her
"That night after the murder the plan was formed by which this woman was
to personate the other. The striking similarity in the hair, which was
the most conspicuous beauty of each, suggested the plot.
"Perhaps Jones had thought of such a thing long before. That may have
led him to keep his real wife practically unknown in this city, while he
was frequently seen with this woman.
"As to the dresses, this woman, who is a very clever dressmaker, as I am
told, doubtless had time to copy the other's costume in the night and
the day following the crime.
"She did most of the work in Albany, where she went as soon as possible.
Then wearing the duplicate dress, she went to her friends in Maysville,
and afterward came here.
"Is it all plain now?"
"It is clear as a bell, Mr. Carter," said the superintendent.
"Wait a moment!"
It was the woman's voice. She spoke calmly, and looked straight into
"You have made one grave error," she said. "It was not John who killed
that woman; it was I.
"She tried to shoot him, and I wrenched the pistol from her hand. I shot
"The plot was all mine. It was I who bribed Corbut. It was I who killed
"John brought him to our flat. I sent my husband away, and when he
returned a few minutes later, Corbut was dead. John had no guilty hand
in either crime.
"He fainted at the sight of Corbut's body. When he came to himself, the
body was no longer to be seen. I had put it into the trunks. It was I
who afterward sent them to Gaspard.
"These crimes I committed for love of this man. I had been his wife for
five years, and for three of them I did not know he had another.
"And when I found it out, I did not do as this woman did. I simply loved
"I love him still, and because I love him I tell the truth to save him.
Yes, more, because I love him, I will shed more blood. He shall not see
me imprisoned or condemned to death. I will spare him that pain."
As she spoke, she drew a little ornamental dagger from her dress. It
was a mere toy. Nobody would have supposed it to be a deadly weapon.
However, Nick sprang forward to prevent her from doing herself an
He was too late. She plunged the dagger into her brain.
So firm and true was her hand that the slender blade pierced the thin
bone of her right temple, and was driven in until the hilt made an
impression on her white skin like a seal upon wax.
Jones uttered a scream of horror at this sight. He, too, had attempted
to stay her hand, but had been too slow.
As she fell, he plucked the dagger from the wound and attempted to drive
it into his own brain. But Nick caught his arm and wrested the
blood-stained weapon from him.
Deprived thus of the means for ending his life, Jones fell upon his
knees before the woman and covered her hands with kisses, nor could he
be taken away, until the hands were chilled by death.
And that was the strange end of the affair. The woman's confession,
though it may not have been true, will doubtless save Jones' life.
At the time of this writing the district attorney is of the opinion that
a plea of murder in the second degree had better be accepted. There is
no indication that the prisoner will fight the case.
So Jones will spend his days in prison, though he will escape the death
A word should be added about the witness, Gaspard. He has been cleared
of all reproach, and has sailed for France with his bride.
NICK CARTER'S GHOST STORY.
THE VANISHING THIEF.
Nick Carter's friends often ask him whether, in the course of his
remarkable experience as a detective, he has ever encountered anything
which could not have been the work of human hands.
Few people, nowadays, will own that they believe in ghosts. Yet most of
us would be less sure about it in a grave-yard at midnight than on
Broadway at noon.
A man who can tell a reasonable story about having seen a ghost may not
find many believers, but he will get plenty of listeners, for we are all
eager to hear about such things.
So Nick, who always likes to oblige his friends, does not deny the
existence of spirits when he is asked whether he ever saw any. On the
contrary, if he has the time to spare, he usually tells the following
A broad-shouldered, square-jawed, bright-eyed young man called on Nick
one afternoon, and was ushered into the study.
His card had gone up ahead of him, and it bore the name--Horace G.
Nick ran his eye over his visitor, and decided that he was a fellow who
knew the world and was getting everything out of it that there is in it.
He met Nick's eye with the air of a man who is going to do something
unusual, and wants to announce at the start that he can back it up.
"I have a case for you, Mr. Carter, if you will take it," he said.
"State it," replied Nick.
"It's a robbery case, and a mighty queer one. I don't pretend to
understand it or any part of it."
"Who's been robbed?"
"My uncle, Colonel Richmond, or, I should say, his daughter, Mrs. Pond.
But the robbery affects my uncle perhaps more seriously than his
daughter. It is on his account that I am here."
"Tell the story."
"I'll do it, but first let me say that whatever others may think of the
case, I believe it's just simply theft. Mrs. Pond has a lot of jewelry
and somebody is stealing it a piece at a time.
"That's my view, but my uncle's is different. He says that these
robberies are not the work of human hands.
"Now, as for me, I try to keep my feet on the earth all the time. I want
you to understand right at the start that I don't believe in any stuff
about ghosts and hobgoblins.
"In my opinion, ghosts that steal diamonds ought to be in the jug, and
will probably get there unless they turn over a new leaf.
"My uncle doesn't see as straight as that. Perhaps you remember that,
three or four years ago, he fell into the hands of a couple of sharks
who pretended to be mediums.
"He had always believed in spiritualism, and those crooks caught him
just right. They called up the spooks of all the dead people he could
think of. They got messages from the spirit land seven nights in the
week and two matinees. My uncle simply went wild about it. You remember.
It was all in the papers. They worked him beautifully, and if I had not
stepped in and exposed them just in time they'd have got every cent he
"That would have been quite a haul," said Nick.
"Well, I should remark! He's worth more than four million dollars. I
tell you, those bogus mediums thought they'd struck something very soft.
"However, I showed them up, and convinced my uncle that they were rank
frauds. They're in Sing Sing now.
"My uncle did not give up his belief in spirits. He said 'these people
are frauds, but there are others who honestly and truly hold
communication with the departed.'
"I tell you, we've had a hard time keeping him out of the hands of
sharpers since then. But we've succeeded.
"And now, by bad luck, this queer affair has come up, and all my uncle's
faith has returned. He wants to consult mediums, and all that sort of
"That's the only serious part of it. The jewels that have been stolen
aren't worth over a couple of thousand dollars, all told.
"Of course, it's a nuisance to have such a thing happen in anybody's
house, but we wouldn't care much if the mysterious circumstances were
not driving my uncle's mind back to his pet delusion."
"What are these mysterious circumstances?" asked the detective.
"Why, it's like this: Colonel Richmond's aunt, Miss Lavina Richmond, was
a queer old lady, who was once very rich. At that time she had a passion
for collecting jewels. She used to invest her money in diamonds, just as
another person might buy houses or railroad stock.
"Only about a tenth part of her fortune was invested so that she got any
income out of it. In the last part of her life she lost all that part
of her property, so that she hadn't anything in the world but her jewels.
"She wouldn't sell one, and there she was as poor in one sense as a
lodger in City Hall Square--for she hadn't a cent of money--and yet
owning diamonds and other precious stones worth nearly a million
"She wouldn't borrow on them; she wouldn't do anything but keep them
locked up; and so she had to depend absolutely on my uncle for the
necessities of life.
"He didn't mind that, of course, for he had plenty. She lived at his
house, and eventually died there.
"She and my uncle never got along well, in spite of his kindness to her,
and she had no friends except a Mrs. Stevens and her daughter. They're
related to the Richmonds, but the money is all in the colonel's branch
of the family.
"Mrs. Stevens and Millie, her daughter, are poor. They have just enough
to live on. The colonel would take care of them, but they won't have it.
They're too proud.
"Now, everybody thought that old Miss Lavina Richmond would leave her
tremendous pile of diamonds to Millie Stevens. Indeed, Miss Richmond
used to say so continually. I've heard her say, in the colonel's
presence, that Miss Stevens should have the jewels; that such was her
"Well, she died suddenly a year or more ago, and the only will that
could be found was dated many years back, and left everything she
possessed to the colonel's daughter.
"It was the greatest surprise that you can imagine. We all knew that
such a will had been made, but we hadn't the slightest idea that it
still existed, and that she had made no other. On the contrary, we knew
positively that she had made a much later will in favor of Millie
Stevens. But the document couldn't be found, and so the old one was
submitted for probate.
"The colonel expected a contest, but the Stevenses did not make a
murmur. It must have been a tremendous disappointment to them, but they
bore it with perfect good nature. They didn't seem to feel half so badly
about it as my uncle did. If he had had his way, he would have given all
the jewels to Miss Stevens.
"He said over and over again that he believed it was his aunt's wish
that the girl should have them. And I can tell you, there's no man so
particular as he is about respecting the wishes of the dead.
"Mrs. Pond would have turned over the whole lot to Millie Stevens, I
believe, if it hadn't been for her husband.
"Mr. Pond isn't a rich man, and he didn't feel that he could afford to
yield up a million dollars' worth of property that had been thrown at
him in that way. And, to speak plainly, he isn't the sort of man to let
go of anything that comes within his reach.
"My uncle offered to do the fair thing out of his own pocket, but, as
I've said, the Stevenses wouldn't touch his money; and there the case
has stood ever since.
"The most valuable of the jewels are in the vaults of the Central Safe
Deposit Company in this city. Some of the smaller pieces are in Mrs.
Pond's possession. She is a woman who likes to wear a lot of jewelry,
and, by Jupiter, she can do it now if she likes, for she owns more
diamonds than the Astors.
"Mr. and Mrs. Pond live in Cleveland. Mrs. Pond, as I've told you, is
now visiting her father. You know he bought the old Plummer place on the
shore of Hempstead Harbor, Long Island.
"She has been with him about two weeks. She has two rooms on the second
floor of the house, a sitting-room and a bed-room. The bed-room opens
off the hall. It has only one other door, which leads to her
"The first robbery occurred on the second day after she had arrived. It
was late in the afternoon.
"Mrs. Pond had been out riding. When she returned she hurried up to her
room to dress for dinner.
"She took off some of her jewelry--some rings, pins and that sort of
thing--and laid them on the dressing-table. Then she went into her
"Remember, I'm telling this just as she told it. How much of it is fact
and how much is hysterics I can't say. She was scared half out of her
wits by what happened afterward, and may have got mixed up in her
"This is what she told us: When she had been in the sitting-room about a
minute she turned toward the bedroom and saw the door slowly shutting.
"She was surprised at this, for she had locked the other door of the
bed-room, and it did not seem possible for anybody to be in there.
"In fact, such a thing did not come into her mind. She supposed that a
draught of air was swinging the door.
"She hastened toward it, but it closed before she got there.
"She turned the knob and tried to open the door, but was unable to do
so. It did not seem to resist firmly, as it would if it had been
fastened. Instead it gave slightly, as if some person had been holding
"If that was the case, he was stronger than she was, for she didn't
succeed in opening the door.
"Then she screamed. Such a yell I never heard a woman utter. I was in my
own room, which is over hers, and I jumped nearly out of my skin, it
startled me so.
"I was dressing, and was in my underclothes, so it took me a minute, I
should say, to get a pair of pantaloons on.
"Then I ran out into the hall and down the stairs. At the same moment
my uncle ran up from the ground floor.
"I mention these facts, because they seem to me to be important. You
see, we approached that room by two ways--by the only two ways except
that by which Mrs. Pond came.
"Just as I got to the hall door of her bed-room she opened it, and fell
into my arms in a faint.
"She lost consciousness only for a moment, and, on coming to herself,
she cried out that a thief had been in her room.
"By this time there were three or four servants in the hall below. One
of them staid there by my uncle's orders. The others went outside and
made a circuit of the house.
"We led Mrs. Pond back into her room, and she pointed to her
"There lay two or three rings and a pin, but the most valuable ring that
she had put there was gone.
"It was a queer, old-fashioned ring in the form of a snake, and in its
mouth was a ruby worth about two hundred and fifty dollars. The eyes
were made of small diamonds.
"She declared that she had left the ring there. She told us how the door
between the two rooms had closed.
"It appears that after she had struggled to open it for several minutes
it suddenly yielded, and she almost fell into the room.
"Of course, she expected to rush straight upon the thief. He had been
holding the door, and naturally he couldn't have gone far after
"She was inside just as soon as the pressure on the other side was
removed. But the room was empty.
"She thought of her jewels at once. She rushed to her dressing-table,
and instantly missed the ruby ring.
"Now, that's all there is to it. We hunted high and low for the thief,
and did not find a trace of him.
"How did he get away? That's where I give up the riddle. The door in the
hall was locked on the inside, and practically guarded by my uncle and
myself. At the other door stood Mrs. Pond.
"There is only one window. It looks out on a sort of court with the
house on three sides of it.
"A man with a wagon was almost under the window all the time. He was
delivering groceries to the cook.
"It's absurd to suppose that anybody got in or out by that window. No
thief would have been fool enough to try it at that time of day, and, as
I've told you, there were two persons who would have been perfectly sure
to see him if he had. And he couldn't have got in or out without a
"I admit that it looked very queer. What do you make of it, Mr. Carter?"
"Are you sure the ring was really taken? Couldn't she have been mistaken
"That's the idea that occurred to me. But it happens that when Mrs. Pond
came back from the drive my uncle banded her out of the carriage, and he
distinctly remembers seeing the ring on her finger.
"She went straight to her room, and she couldn't have lost the ring by
the way, for there was a guard ring on the outside of it, and that we
found on the dressing-table.
"Of course, we hunted for the ruby ring. We took up the carpets; we made
such a search as I never saw before. The ring was not there.
"I don't think there's a shadow of doubt that the ring was stolen, but I
can't form an idea of how it was done.
"The more I think about it the more confused I get. To my mind the
queerest part of it is that somebody held the door, and then let go of
it and vanished in a quarter of a second. How are we going to explain
"Didn't the thief put something against the door?"
"I thought of that, and tried to work out that theory, but it's
impossible. Not a piece of furniture was out of place, and there wasn't
a stick or a prop of any kind in the room that could have been used for
such a purpose."
"Well, that's strange, I must admit," said Nick. "I guess it will be
necessary for me to go down and look the ground over."
"That's just what we want."
"Come along, then. I'm ready."
NICK IS BOLDLY CHALLENGED.
Nick knew the old Plummer mansion well. There is not a house to match it
in this country.
A hundred years and more ago it must have been the scene of strange
adventures. It was built, certainly, by one who did not expect a
peaceful and quiet life within it.
The thick stone walls, which look so unnecessarily massive, are really
double. There are secret passages and movable panels and trap-doors
enough in that house to hide a man, if a regiment of soldiers was after
Evidently such a place offered every chance to shrewd criminals who
might have a motive for playing upon the superstitious beliefs of the
Anybody who couldn't get up a respectable ghost in the old Plummer house
must be a very poor fakir.
The mere fact that all the doors and windows of a room were closed did
not prevent any person from going in or out at will, if he knew the
secrets of the house.
Nick thought of these things as he rode down there in the cars, and he
prepared himself for an interesting time, chasing bogus ghosts through
secret doors and panels.
But a surprise awaited him on his arrival. Colonel Richmond met him at
the door, and, by Nick's request, took him at once to the room from
which the articles had been stolen.
It was a modern room in a new part of the house.
Nick was entirely unprepared for this. He did not know that the colonel
had built any additions to the old mansion.
Colonel Richmond spoke of this remarkable feature of the case at once.
"If this thing had happened in the old part of the house," he said, "I
shouldn't have thought that it was anything but an ordinary robbery.
"Every room there can be entered in a secret manner, and no doubt there
are plenty of panels and passages which even I do not know.
"But there's nothing of the kind here. This wing was built under my eye,
and from my own design. I saw the beams laid and the floors nailed down.
"There is absolutely no way to enter the room in which we now stand
except by the two doors and the window.
"My nephew has told you about the robberies. You know that the doors and
the windows were practically guarded all the time.
"I don't believe that any mortal being could have got in here and got
out again without being seen.
"As for myself, I understand the case perfectly. My belief will seem
strange to you, because you do not see with the eye of the spirit.
Everything has to be done by human hands, according to your
"I know better; and I tell you that these jewels were taken by the
spirit of my deceased aunt, and that she did it to show me that my
daughter was wrongfully in possession of them."
When a healthy, hearty old man, who seems to be as sane as anybody else
in the world, stands up and talks such nonsense as this, what can one
say to him?
It is useless to tell him that he is wrong about the whole matter. It is
folly to attempt to reason with him.
The only way to do is to show him a perfectly natural explanation of the
mystery, and simply make him see it.
That was the task which Nick had before him, and it must be owned that,
at the first glance, he did not see how he was going to accomplish it.
He examined the room and satisfied himself that it had no secret
Such being the case, Nick was unable to form a theory of the robbery
which would fit the facts as they had been stated to him.
After looking at the rooms, he went with Colonel Richmond to the parlor,
on the ground floor, and there proceeded to question him about the
"There have been three robberies in all," said the colonel, "and they
have been exactly alike.
"In every case my daughter has left some articles of jewelry on the
dressing-table in her bed-room, and one of them has vanished. Never more
than one at a time.
"Twice it happened while she was in the adjoining room. The bed-room
door which opens into the hall was locked on these occasions.
"The third time she was in the hall, talking with my nephew. He was
standing in the upper hall, leaning over the banister rail. They were
discussing a plan for a drive out into the country. Quite a party was to
"Horace had just received word from a gentleman whom they had invited
that he would be unable to go. He had read the note in his room, and he
called downstairs to my daughter to tell her about it.
"That was how they happened to be standing in the hall. Presently she
went back into her room, and almost immediately noticed that a small
locket set with diamonds had been taken.
"She screamed, and Horace and I came running to her room. We searched it
"There was nobody there. The door between the bedroom and the
sitting-room was open, but the other door of the sitting-room, which
opens into the old portion of the house, was locked and bolted on the
"Now, I submit to you, Mr. Carter, whether in that case any other way of
entrance or exit was possible except by the windows."
"I'm bound to admit," responded Nick, "that if the doors were in the
condition you describe, no person could have entered or left those rooms
except by the windows."
"Well, it had been raining hard, and the ground was soft. We looked
carefully under all the windows.
"There was no sign of a footprint, and nobody could have walked there
without making tracks. Oh, it is clear enough! Why do we waste your time
in a search for invisible spirits of the dead?"
He rambled on in this way for several minutes, and Nick did not try to
The colonel was at last interrupted, however, by the entrance of his
Mrs. Pond had been out driving. She learned, on her return, that a
stranger had come to the house, and she hurried into the parlor,
suspecting who was there.
"I am delighted to see you, Mr. Carter," she exclaimed. "You will clear
up this abominable mystery and relieve my father's mind from these
"Then you do not share his opinions," said Nick.
Mrs. Pond laughed nervously.
"No, indeed," she said, "and yet I must admit that I am quite unable to
explain the facts. I suppose you have heard the story?"
"What do you think about it?"
"It is much too early in the case for me to express an opinion. But
there are one or two questions that I should like to ask you."
"Do so, by all means. It was at my request that you were called in."
"At your request?"
"Yes; I talked with Horace about it, and at last we agreed to ask you to
take the case. He didn't believe in it at first, for he did not want to
let anybody into our family secrets."
She glanced at her father as she spoke. It was evident that the family
was a good deal ashamed of Colonel Richmond's spiritualistic delusions
and wanted to keep quiet about them.
"I talked Horace into it after a while," Mrs. Pond continued, "and at
last he became as enthusiastic as myself. We know that you will find the
"Thank you," responded Nick. "There is one point which seems peculiar to
me. After you had been robbed once, why did you continue to leave the
jewels unwatched in the very place from which one of them had previously
"I insisted upon it," said Colonel Richmond. "I told my daughter that
she must make no change in her habit of wearing or caring for my aunt's
jewels. I wished to show that we were not foolishly trying to hide them
from the eye of a spirit, but that we wished to learn the desire of my
departed aunt as soon as possible."
"It was by your order, then," said Nick, "that your daughter continued
to put the jewels on her dressing-table when she laid them aside for any
"I have just left some of them there now," said Mrs. Pond. "I went to my
room after my ride, and took off a light cloak which was fastened with
three pins, each having a diamond in its head. I stuck them all into a
cushion on that dressing-table."
"Is the room locked?" asked Nick.
"Yes," replied Mrs. Pond, and she produced the key of the door which
opened from the hall above.
"Will you allow me to go up there now?"
She handed the key to Nick.
He took it and walked out of the parlor.
Nick had already formed a sort of working theory in the case. He
scarcely believed that it would hold water, but it would do for a
The most probable explanation that had come to him was that Mrs. Pond
had not really been robbed at all.
It might be that she had some motive for making these articles vanish.
Perhaps she had some need of money, and was secretly selling them
against the wish of her husband and her father.
So, when Nick took that key and went toward that room he did not expect
to find the three diamond pins in the position described by the lady.
He found the door locked, and he opened it by means of the key. Then he
locked it behind him, leaving the key in the lock.
He turned at once to a dressing-table.
The three pins were there, just as Mrs. Pond had said.
Nick laughed softly to himself.
"That looks bad for my first shot at this queer case," he said; "but
perhaps she didn't dare work the game while I was in the house."
He glanced out of the window of the room.
Two servants were in the yard. They seemed to be explaining the
robberies to a new driver of a groceryman's wagon, for they had one of
his arms apiece, and were pointing to the window.
Nick walked into the sitting-room, and spent some minutes examining the
walls, and especially the door leading toward the old part of the house.
He found nothing at all to reward his search. There absolutely was no
The detective decided that nothing further could be done in that room.
He walked toward the other.
To his astonishment he found that the door had been closed while he had
been busy with his investigations.
He sprang against it.
The door yielded a little, and yet he could not open it.
Some person stronger than he seemed to be holding it on the other side.
He drew back for a spring. That door would have gone to splinters if it
had stood in his way again.
Instead, it swung open the instant he touched it, and the force of his
lunge took him nearly to the middle of the room.
In an instant he was on guard, but he saw no one.
The room was quiet, and it was empty.
The door into the hall was locked as he had left it.
All was the same, except that on the dressing-table was the cushion
bearing two diamond pins instead of three.
The robbery had been done, as one might say, under the nose of the
greatest detective in the world.
"Well, this takes my breath away," said Nick to himself. "It's the
nerviest challenge that ever was sprung on me."
HOW NICK FOUND THE JEWELS.
It certainly looked like sheer recklessness for this thief, whoever he
might be, to play his game on Nick almost at the very moment when the
great detective appeared upon the scene.
Shrewd as Nick was, he had not expected this. His first thought, as the
reader knows, was that it was a bold challenge, the defiance of a nervy
criminal who thought himself absolutely safe from detection.
But a moment's reflection made this seem less probable.
Was it not more natural to suppose that this event proved that the
detective was unknown to the thief?
Such being the case, Colonel Richmond, his nephew and Mrs. Pond were
acquitted at the start.
It may seem ridiculous to suspect them, in any case, but so strange was
the nature of this affair that Nick gave nobody the credit of certain
Colonel Richmond was certainly very nearly crazy on one point. He might
be so much of a lunatic as to commit these robberies from simple
delusion. Or he might wish to prove to his daughter that the diamonds
were not rightfully hers.
Mrs. Pond might be pawning them for small extravagances which she was
afraid to have known.
As to Horace Richmond, there was no motive which seemed plausible. The
value of the articles taken was so small as to make the game not worth
while for a man in his position.
And it was perfectly certain that no professional thief or dishonest
servant was doing the work.
If such a person had been in the game, he would not have taken one of
those diamond pins; he would have taken all three.
It was impossible to lose sight of the fact that the Stevenses would be
the real gainers, if this ghost business led Colonel Richmond to insist
that his daughter should give up the jewels.
Mrs. Stevens and her daughter could not be doing the job personally, but
they might have a secret agent among the servants, or more probably
concealed in some secret recess of the strange old house.
Nick resolved to go to see Mrs. and Miss Stevens without delay. He hoped
to judge by their conduct whether they knew anything about the
These thoughts passed through his mind in a flash.
He quickly searched the room to be sure that the thief was not concealed
in it, and then descended to the main hall. The outer door was open, and
Colonel Richmond and his daughter were standing on the steps.
Just as Nick joined them Horace Richmond strolled up. They all stood
looking at a carriage which was coming up the driveway.
"Why, it's Mrs. Stevens," exclaimed Mrs. Pond. "I thought you said she
did not come here any more."
"She hasn't been here in some time," responded the colonel. "I have
thought that she avoided us because of this matter of the jewels."
Nothing more could be said on the subject, for at that moment the
carriage drew up before the door.
Colonel Richmond advanced courteously and assisted Mrs. Stevens to
Nick noticed at once that she was much agitated.
Colonel Richmond asked her into the house, but she said that she
preferred to sit on the veranda. She had come on business, and would
stay but a moment.
She evidently wished to speak to the colonel privately, and so the
others stepped aside; but Nick's eye was upon the woman every moment.
Very few words had passed between them, when the colonel uttered a cry
and called to Nick.
The detective instantly advanced. He made a sign to Richmond, but it was
not understood, and the colonel introduced Nick by his right name.
"Here is an extraordinary thing, Mr. Carter," he said. "We now have
proof positive that this affair is not the work of mortal hands."
"What is that?" asked Nick.
"The jewels have appeared!"
"In Mrs. Stevens' house. They have been mysteriously transported there
without human aid."
"I should be glad to have that proven," said Nick.
"It shall be," said the colonel. "Tell your story, Mrs. Stevens, if you
"It is very simple," she said. "This noon, when I returned to my room
after lunch, I found upon my dressing-table certain pieces of jewelry
which I recognized as having belonged to the late Miss Lavina Richmond.
"I knew them well. Nothing that I can imagine could have surprised me
more than to find them there. I have no explanation to offer. I can't
explain how it happened."
Nick could explain it very easily, at least so far as the appearance of
the jewels in that particular place was concerned. It looked like a
natural development of the plot. But his face expressed no emotion as he
"Who had access to that room?"
"Nobody," replied Mrs. Stevens. "It was locked."
"Is it customary for you to lock your bed-room door when you go to
"No; it is quite unusual. But we have a new servant in the house, and,
as I had considerable money in the room, I took that precaution.
"All the doors were locked. I had the key to one of them. The others
were on the inside of the locks.
"When I went to lunch the jewels were not there. When I returned they
were there. That is all that I know about it. Here they are."
She drew from her pocket as she spoke a small cardboard box.
The woman was making heroic efforts to be calm, but it seemed as if she
might either faint or go into hysterics at any moment.
Was she playing a game that was too hard for her?
That was the question for Nick to answer; and yet, when he looked at
this gentle, refined woman, he hardly had the heart to suspect her of
"I will show you the jewels," she said, struggling to command her voice,
"you can then see whether they are all here."
Her trembling hands could hardly find the string which was tied about
While she pulled at it she kept talking as if she must do it to relieve
her overburdened mind. She described the articles of jewelry which were
in the box.
"They are the very ones," said the colonel.
As he uttered the words the string was loosened, and the cover fell off
There was a sharp cry. It came from Mrs. Pond, who, with Horace, had
approached during this scene.
"Why, there's one of my diamond pins!" she exclaimed. "How on earth did
it come to be there?"
Well, if Mrs. Pond was surprised, she wasn't a bit more so than Nick
The pin referred to was the one which had been stolen from the cushion
in Mrs. Pond's dressing-room not ten minutes before.
"Why, this is impossible," cried Mrs. Pond. "I left that pin with the
two others like it in my room."
Without saying another word, she turned and ran into the house.
Almost immediately her voice was heard in the hall.
"It's gone!" she cried. "It's been taken out of my bedroom."
She appeared at the door with a very white face.
But her excitement was nothing to that of Mrs. Stevens.
Nick dropped the role of detective and assumed that of doctor in less
than a second.
When he had saved Mrs. Stevens from an attack of hysterics, he said:
"I was aware that that pin had been taken. It was done while I was in
your room, Mrs. Pond. The circumstances were exactly the same as those
attending the other robberies."
"But I did not put it in the box," exclaimed Mrs. Stevens. "It was not
among the jewels which I found."
She turned to Colonel Richmond. Her face was ghastly pale.
"I have scorned your belief," she said; "but now I am convinced. No
mortal being could have done this thing."
"What do you say to that, Mr. Carter?" cried the colonel, with flashing
"I would like to ask a few questions," rejoined Nick. "Were you alone
when you put those jewels into the box?"
"Has it been in your possession ever since?"
"It has not been out of my care."
"Did you tell anybody about the finding of the jewels?"
"Please describe everything that happened after you found them."
"I was, of course, greatly agitated. I did not know what to do. For some
time I sat staring at the jewels and trying to think what was my proper
"At last I took this box from a drawer of my dressing-table and put the
jewels into it.
"Then I called to the servant who was in the dining-room, and asked her
to see that the carriage was got ready, for though it is a long drive, I
had resolved to make it, because I felt safer in that way."
"Did you go out of your room to call the girl?"
"Only into the hall."
"Who could have got into your room while you were out?"
"Where was your daughter?"
"In her own room."
"How do you know?"
"I called to her after I had dressed, and she answered me. I told her
that I was going to drive over here, and she was very much surprised. I
did not tell her why."
"Did you meet anybody on the way over who spoke to you or came to the
side of the carriage?"
"That is all I wish to ask."
In fact, Nick had no more questions. He was really at a loss for an
explanation of this strange occurrence.
If the pin had been taken from the room, by a person concealed in the
house, it might have been possible that that person had escaped from the
grounds unseen, and had given it to Mrs. Stevens.
There was hardly time for such a trick to have been done, but in so
strange a case every possibility was to be considered.
If such a thing had been done, it must have been very near to the
The thief must have known when Mrs. Stevens was coming, or she must have
waited for him just outside the colonel's grounds.
There was a place where the road was heavily fringed with trees, not
more than a hundred yards from the colonel's gate.
The trick must have been done there, if at all.
Nick resolved to settle this small point, if possible, immediately.
It was of no use to ask the man who had driven Mrs. Stevens' horse. Of
course, he would lie, if there was any need of it.
So Nick excused himself from the group on the pretext that he was going
to search Mrs. Pond's rooms again.
He remembered that just after Mrs. Stevens had arrived, a wagon
belonging to the colonel had driven into the grounds. He quietly looked
up the two servants who had been in this wagon. They told him that they
remembered seeing Mrs. Stevens drive up.
She had passed them on the road. They had had her carriage in sight for
a mile before it turned into Colonel Richmond's grounds.
Her horse had been driven at a good pace. It had not stopped. Nobody had
approached the carriage.
Nick was convinced that the men were telling the truth.
Then how had Mrs. Stevens obtained that pin?
Her possession of the other articles might be explained, but the pin was
After questioning the two men whom he had found in the stable, Nick
walked toward the house.
On the way he met Horace Richmond.
"Mrs. Stevens has gone home," said Horace. "She would not remain for
dinner, although she has such a long ride before her. She seems terribly
distressed by this strange affair."
"What did your uncle say to her?"
"Not much," was the reply; "and I was a good deal surprised. He begged
her not to be nervous about it, and talked very pleasantly to her, but
he steered clear of the matter of the jewels.
"I don't understand it. I thought he would insist upon what he calls a
restitution of the property."
"Perhaps, after all," said Nick, "he isn't so far off his base on the
ghost question as you think he is."
"Don't you deceive yourself about that. He is just as sure that his
aunt's spirit removed those jewels as you are that that house is resting
on its foundations.
"And I wouldn't try to shake his belief just now," continued Horace,
seriously. "Simply say nothing about the affair this evening. Talk about
something else to him. Stay with us as long as you can, and quietly look
the ground over. Then tell me privately what you think."
This advice seemed good to Nick. He passed a quiet evening in the house,
and nobody but Mrs. Pond referred to the robberies. Horace managed to
quiet her quickly.
But the next morning after breakfast she came to Nick with a very long
"My father has been talking to me," she said, "and I'm going to lose
those jewels surely, unless you do something and do it very quickly. I
don't care for their value, but they're mine by right, and I mean to
keep them if I can. But, of course, I can't bear to make my father's
life miserable. It will probably end by my compelling my husband to let
me give them up."
Nick had his doubts about the possibility of such a thing, and they were
made certainties very soon afterward.
Mr. Pond arrived unexpectedly. When the story was told him, he "danced
the war-dance," as our young friend Patsy might have expressed it.
"You don't seem to realize the importance of this matter," he exclaimed.
"Why, it's a million-dollar robbery, that's what it is! If we give up
the jewels, the colonel will give us their value. By jingo, he'll have
"Well, what's that but the theft of a million from him?"
Nick was compelled to confess that it was just that, and nothing else.
"And who'll reap the proceeds?" continued Pond. "Why, the Stevenses, of
course. Nobody else gets anything out of it. They're playing on the
colonel's superstitions for a million dollar stake.
"Now, Mr. Carter, you go ahead and work this thing out. Catch the thief.
Don't let the colonel get you out of the way. If there's a question of
money, I'm good for the best fee you can name."
Nick's first move that day was to go to Mrs. Stevens' house.
She lived well on her small income. It was a nice old country-house,
with grounds of considerable extent, and a stable in which two good
horses were kept.
Nick rode over there on one of Colonel Richmond's fine saddle-horses.
As the detective rode up the winding, shaded walk toward the house, he
noticed a man-servant just ahead of him.
This servant had a newspaper and some letters in his hand. He seemed to
have come from the village post-office.
Leaning over the railing of the veranda, as if waiting for this servant,
was one of the handsomest girls Nick had ever seen. She was a beauty of
the dashing, dark-eyed type--a girl of courage and strong will.
The servant gave her the letters just as Nick came in sight. He not only
gave her those he had been carrying in his hand, but he drew one from
his pocket with a motion that suggested secrecy.
Nick rode up to the veranda, introduced himself, and asked to see Mrs.
"Let James take your horse," said the girl. "Come into the house, if you
please. I will speak to my mother."
Nick went into the cool and pretty parlor. Miss Stevens left the room
for a moment, and then returned with her mother.
The detective spoke of the occurrences of the day before, and requested
permission to see the room in which the jewelry had so mysteriously
While they were talking thus, it happened that Miss Stevens drew her
handkerchief from her pocket, and as she did so two little pieces of
paper fell to the floor.
"So she's read that letter, and torn it up so soon," was Nick's silent
Almost immediately Miss Stevens said:
"There's the mail on the table, mother. I forgot to give it to you.
There are several letters."
Mrs. Stevens glanced at the addresses.
"They are all for me," she said. "Was there nothing for you?"
"No, indeed," cried the girl. "There's nobody who writes letters to
"Lies to her mother, does she?" said Nick to himself. "Well, it begins
to look bad for her."
Miss Stevens did not notice the bits of paper on the floor, and Nick by
clever work succeeded in getting possession of them.
Then, by Mrs. Stevens' permission, he went to look at the room already
No sooner was he there than he got rid of the lady upon some plausible
excuse, and so had an opportunity of examining the bits of paper.
They were ordinary letter paper impossible to trace.
One bit was blank on both sides. The other bore some queer little marks,
but no writing. To Nick the marks were quite clear. They were the dots
and dashes of the Morse telegraphic alphabet. They represented the
letters n, t, b, e, t, r, a, written very small on a narrow scrap, not
more than an inch long.
"Don't betray," muttered Nick. "Worse and worse. Miss Stevens will
evidently bear watching."
As to the room, his inspection of it was of little use. He had not
expected much. He had come to see Miss Stevens, principally, and in her
case the investigation had certainly begun better than he could have
reasonably expected. She was engaged in some secret affair. She
concealed letters from her mother. She had bribed one of the servants.
This last fact was proven by the manner in which the letter had been
delivered to her.
As he was turning these matters over in his mind, Mrs. Stevens and her
daughter entered the room.
"What have you discovered, Mr. Carter?" asked the girl. "You must know
that my mother has told me all about this strange affair, and I am
"I have learned nothing," said Nick, "except that this room can be
easily entered, even when the doors are locked.
"Take this door leading to the rear room, for instance. The key was on
this side, it is true, but it turns very easily. A person with a pair of
nippers could get in without trouble, and lock the door afterward.
"I can't tell from the appearance of the key whether or not this was
done, but I think it probable."
"You mean that somebody came in here while mother was at lunch, and put
the jewels where they were found?"
"But who could it have been?"
"I don't know," answered Nick, frankly.
"And how do you explain the presence of that other pin in the box?"
asked Mrs. Stevens.
"There is an explanation," said Nick; "but I prefer not to give it now."
"As you please," responded the lady, haughtily. "I can only say that I
trust you will find this thief speedily, and end this annoyance to which
we are being subjected."
"I don't think it ought to be hard for a person of your abilities," said
Miss Stevens. "I have already solved the puzzle."
"And who is the guilty person?" asked Nick, with a smile.
"Colonel Richmond, of course."
"Why should he do this?"
"Because he's crazy. That's reason enough."
"I'd like to hear you explain your theory a little further."
"Why, Mr. Carter, I'm surprised at you. Is there any motive for this
so-called crime? No. Then it must be a crazy person's work. Is there
more than one lunatic among us? Certainly not. So, as two and two make
four, and the sun doesn't rise in the west, Colonel Richmond is the
man. What kind of a detective do you think I'd make?"
"There isn't any one alive who could compare with you," said Nick.
"No; I'm serious. There are plenty of detectives who can reason up to
the wrong man, but none, I'm sure, who can do it so quickly as you can."
Mrs. Stevens laughed at her daughter's discomfiture, and the girl joined
"Supposing for a moment that your theory is true," continued Nick. "How
do you suppose that Colonel Richmond managed to get the jewels over
The girl became serious in a moment.
"This is a very delicate subject," she said. "I hate to cast suspicion
upon any one."
"You refer to the new servant, of course."
"Well, we know nothing about the girl," said Mrs. Stevens, "and, of
course, when anything so strange happens in the house we naturally think
of her. She brought good references, and she certainly looks honest."
"Did she have an opportunity to put the jewels into this room?"
"As to that, I have talked it over with my daughter, and it seems just
possible that the girl could have done it. I thought at first that it
"Of course, it was possible," exclaimed Miss Stevens. "She could have
run up the back stairs at any time."
She proceeded to explain this theory, until it seemed quite plausible.
And yet all the time she was filling the detective's mind with the
blackest suspicions against herself.
Here was the case: The plotters were trying to work on Colonel
A celebrated detective had been called in. If he succeeded, the
plotters failed, and the Stevenses lost the jewels.
What more natural than that the criminals should wish to throw the
detective on a wrong scent? Was it not to be expected that they should
pitch upon this new servant as the best person with whom to deceive
Altogether, Miss Stevens was making out a very strong case against
COLONEL RICHMOND'S NIGHT ADVENTURE.
Of course, Nick questioned the servant. To have failed to do that would
have been to throw light upon his real suspicions.
She was a tall, slender, and rather pretty Irish girl, named Annie
Her answers to all questions were plain and simple.
She told what she had been doing on the previous day while Mrs. Stevens
was at lunch. She had not been in the dining-room all the time, but had
come in twice or thrice when summoned.
During the remainder of the time she had been in the kitchen. Nobody had
been with her there.
When Nick left the house, he rode half a mile back along the road, and
then dismounted and sat down under a big tree. In a few minutes a
farmer's wagon came along. A young man, who looked like a farm laborer,
was riding beside the farmer. He did not ride far beyond the place where
Nick was sitting. In a few minutes they sat together under the tree. The
young farm laborer was Patsy.
"I got your message," said Patsy. "I took the chance to ride over from
the station with that fellow, and I've asked him a few questions about
the house where you want me to go on duty. It seems that there's no show
to get in there on any pretext. I'll have to camp around on the outside
like a grass-eater."
"That won't hurt you, Patsy, my lad," said Nick. "The weather's good.
You're to keep an eye on the whole household, but on Miss Stevens
"This is the way the case looks at present: The girl is doing the work
on this end in connection with some confederate concealed in Colonel
"You understand the game. It's to work the spirit racket on Colonel
Richmond until he buys the jewels from his daughter or her husband, and
gives them to Miss Stevens.
"You must watch for the system by which she communicates with her
confederate in Richmond's house. They work the mails, but there must be
some quicker means to use in emergencies.
"Try to snare a letter, or get a sight of the other party.
"And be sure not to jump at conclusions, Patsy. I've told you how the
case looks, but it may be any other way. I haven't begun to work down to
Nick mounted his horse, and Patsy strolled away in the direction of the
When the detective got back to Colonel Richmond's, it was well along in
He spent the remainder of his day in exploring the secret recesses of
the old house. It was, indeed, a marvelous place, and Nick got a very
high opinion of the ingenuity of the man who had designed its mysterious
He got little else, however. One or two discoveries he certainly made.
They were important as indicating that somebody had recently been in the
There was nothing to show what that person had been doing there, but the
probability was, of course, that he had concealed himself in the old
part of the house while preparing for his operations in Mrs. Pond's
room, or while escaping from them.
These indications were very vague, and did not point to the principal in
this affair--that mysterious thief who worked invisibly and by such
After dinner Horace Richmond took Nick aside, for what he termed a
discussion of "this ghostly rot."
"The very devil is in this business," said Horace. "The servants are
getting scared out of their wits.
"They all sleep in the old part of the house, you know, and there isn't
one of them who hasn't some story to tell of what goes on there in the
"Some of these yarns are the old-fashioned business about sighs and
groans, and doors opening and shutting without anybody to open and shut
"But under it all I must say that there seems to be a basis of fact.
There's John Gilder, the coachman. You've seen him, Does he look like a
man who can be scared easily?"
"I should say not," laughed Nick. "He looks to me like a Yankee
horse-trader, who is too intimate with the devil and his ways to be at
all alarmed about them."
"Just so. Well, John Gilder came to me to-day, and told me just as
calmly as I'd tell you the time of day, that he'd seen the ghost of Miss
Lavina Richmond. He saw her right in this room where we are now."
They had gone to the large dining-hall in the old mansion. Horace
sometimes used it as a smoking-room, but otherwise it was seldom
visited, except when the house was full of guests and all the old part
was thrown open.
It was a long and high room, finished in dark wood, and decorated with
moldering portraits in the worst possible style of art.
At one end was a gigantic fire-place, which was closed by a screen of
"He told me," continued Horace, "that he was passing through here late
last night--near midnight, he said--and that he saw Lavina Richmond
standing just about where you stand now.
"He came in by that door, behind me, and she was directly facing him.
He says that he didn't move or yell, or do anything, but just stood
staring at her.
"She paid no attention whatever to him, but passed across the room and
went out by that other door, which opened as she approached and closed
after her of itself.
"Then he ran for his room. He claims that he wasn't scared--only a bit
"You can believe that if you want to. I tell you that he was scared, so
that he won't get over it in a year.
"If it wasn't for that I might think he was lying; but when a man like
Gilder quietly invites the footman--whom he always hated--to take half
of his bed for a few weeks, it's a sure thing that he's seen something
out of the ordinary.
"And the footman, as I learn, was mighty glad to accept the invitation,
for he's been having a few experiences of his own.
"Now, Mr. Carter, you and I believe that these things are done by some
clever trickster. It may be that some bogus medium who used to get the
colonel's good money away from him, wants more of it, and is taking this
means of driving my uncle back to the fold of true believers.
"I'm beginning to believe that that may be the fact. But whatever it is,
the case is almighty serious.
"Here's a nice old man, living happily, and gradually getting away from
his delusion. Here's an agent of the devil trying to drive this old man
back to his delusion, and make a lunatic of him, for that's what the
doctor says will certainly happen.
"I say it's too bad, not to mention the jewels at all. Now, what are we
going to do about it?"
"Catch the rascal," said Nick, promptly, "and catch him mighty quick."
"Well, I hope you'll succeed. I tell you, Mr. Carter, I feel toward
Colonel Richmond all the affection that I would give my father, if he
were alive, and I can't bear to see him driven out of his wits in this
"Have no fear," said Nick; "we'll save him. This trickery with the
servants may give us a chance to catch our man."
They returned to the parlor in the new part of the house.
Colonel Richmond was not there.
"Where is he?" asked Horace, anxiously, of Mrs. Pond.
"He has gone to his room. He said that the excitement of this affair had
worn him out completely."
Horace looked relieved.
Nick said that he, too, would go to his room.
He went, but he did not remain long in it. He had a fancy for a quiet
stroll around the house on the outside. It would be interesting to know
whether anybody entered or left it during the night.
One of the secret passages of the old house communicated with a sort of
tunnel, which had its outer extremity in an old well about twenty yards
away. This tunnel had caved in long before, but had been restored by
Colonel Richmond, who wished to preserve all the old-time peculiarities
of the place.
The inner end of it had been closed by a strong door, so as to prevent
anybody who might have the secret from entering in that way, but Nick
was strongly of the opinion that it would not keep out the persons who
were "haunting" the house in case they desired to come in.
If anybody was going in and out secretly this seemed to be the readiest
way, so Nick had resolved to watch the well that night.
A little house with sides of lattice-work had been built over it, and
vines covered it.
Nick stealthily crept into its shadow, and prepared for his vigil. But
it was not destined to be a long one.
He had not been there ten minutes before he saw a figure hastening
along one of the numerous paths which wound through the grounds.
This person evidently wished to avoid observation, and that was enough
for Nick. He immediately started in pursuit.
He trailed his man to the edge of the colonel's grounds. During this
pursuit the man kept in the shadow of some trees, and Nick had no
opportunity to see him clearly.
But as the man stepped out into the highway, a ray of moonlight fell
upon him, and Nick recognized him in an instant. It was Colonel
Why this man should be leaving his own house by stealth and under the
cover of darkness was an interesting problem.
Nick resolved to know all about it before the night was much older. So
he trailed along.
The colonel walked up the highway with rapid strides.
About half a mile from the house he found a carriage standing under the
shadow of a tree.
Evidently he expected to find it just there, for he immediately jumped
into it, and the driver whipped up his horse.
Nick was unable to see the driver, for the carriage was a covered buggy,
and had been standing with its back toward him.
The horse was evidently a good one, but Nick overhauled him, and got
hold of the carriage behind.
There was no chance for him to ride there, but his grip on the wagon
helped him along, and he ran about eight miles quite comfortably.
His presence so near was entirely unsuspected by the occupants of the
carriage. He was favorably situated for overhearing their conversation,
but unfortunately they did not say anything.
Nick discovered that the driver was a woman, but he could only guess at
At last they turned suddenly out of the road, into the grounds of a
The sound of the wheels was evidently heard within, and the front door
was thrown open, letting out considerable light from the hall.
Nick could not go too near that light, so he let go, and crept into some
The carriage drew up before the door, and the colonel and his companion
hurried into the house, leaving the horse tied.
The detective failed to obtain a good view of the woman or of the person
who had opened the door. The latter seemed to be a servant.
When the door had closed, Nick crept up.
He manoeuvred carefully, and discovered that there was somebody sitting
in the hall just inside the door.
Entrance by that means was out of the question.
However, he succeeded without much difficulty in entering the house from
He found himself in the kitchen, from which he passed to a dining-room.
This apartment was almost totally dark. Nick felt his way to the side
opposite the kitchen, and came to a heavy pair of folding doors.
From the other side came a confused murmur of voices, as if many persons
were talking in hushed tones.
Presently they became quite still and then there arose the sound of
music. It was a slow and somber strain, as from an organ gently played.
Nick was crouching against the door, among the folds of a curtain which
could be drawn across.
Suddenly he heard a slight sound behind him. He turned noiselessly.
A white figure flitted across the room.
Nick was at one end of the folding doors, and the figure passed to the
other end and into the corner beyond.
There it suddenly vanished.
The light was so dim that Nick could not tell exactly what had happened.
It certainly seemed as if the figure had gone straight through the wall.
About a minute later another form appeared in the same way. It crossed
the room, and vanished.
"Good!" muttered Nick. "I'll back these ghosts against any that Colonel
Richmond can raise in his house."
Almost immediately there was the sound of a voice in the room beyond the
"Does any person present recognize a departed friend?" it said.
Then Colonel Richmond's voice arose, hoarse and trembling with emotion.
"Aunt Lavina," he said, "tell me what you wish me to do. I will obey you
"I thought so," chuckled the detective. "The colonel has come to attend
a spiritualistic seance."
A ROUND-UP OF SPOOK-ARTISTS.
It began to look very much as if Horace Richmond's theory was correct.
Certainly the colonel had fallen again into the clutches of bogus
It might be that the whole plot was directed to that end, and that the
transfer of the jewels to the Stevenses was only to be an incidental
result of the plot.
Yet so long as Miss Stevens' unusual conduct remained unexplained, it
would not do to go upon this theory.
"One of the principal things that Horace Richmond employed me to do,"
said Nick to himself, "was to break up his uncle's belief in
spiritualism. I guess that this is a first-class chance to do it."
He softly crept to the corner where the gliding figures had disappeared.
There, as he expected, he found one of those movable panels which the
bogus mediums prepare so cleverly.
His experience of such affairs taught Nick exactly what he should find
in the other room.
There must be a little cabinet in the corner covering the other side of
the sliding panel.
The medium might be in it, or she might be sitting blindfold just by the
But the cabinet was certainly not empty. Two figures had gone into it,
as Nick had observed.
One of these was doubtless playing the part of Aunt Lavina.
The other must be waiting to appear in some other role.
Nick listened. He could hear the colonel questioning the supposed
The replies were put in that silly and mysterious language supposed to
be appropriate to visitors from the other world.
The meaning of them, however, was plain enough. Colonel Richmond was
commanded to restore the jewels to Millie Stevens.
This point was made so exceedingly clear, and his promise was demanded
in such stringent terms that Nick was no longer able to doubt that the
interests of the Stevenses were being very carefully attended to by
In view of the facts already known, it was hardly possible to reach any
other conclusion than that Millie Stevens had hired this medium to do
the whole job.
That it was being done "to the queen's taste," Nick was forced to admit.
Yet he couldn't help being sorry to believe that such a charming and
beautiful girl as Millie Stevens should be mixed up in such a dirty
He waited till Colonel Richmond had completed his solemn protestations,
and then suddenly slid the panel and passed through.
There was another person in the cabinet, who was, of course, instantly
aware of Nick's entrance.
But the place was so dark that at first the bogus ghost did not know
that Nick was not one of the regular company of spirits.
He had a chance to get his bearings before the discovery was made.
The shade of Aunt Lavina was just retreating toward the cabinet making
that absurd series of nods and gestures which such spirits always use.
Nick could see this performance through an aperture in the side of the
He instantly leaped out, and grappled with the spook.
Then there was an uproar. The whole room was in indescribable confusion.
Somebody turned up the light. For an instant Nick, grappling with the
spirit, saw Colonel Richmond.
The colonel had not been given a private seance. Possibly he had not
desired it. He had come with a dozen other victims of the same delusion.
He had been given a seat a little in the rear.
Before him, as is usual, was a row of persons who were "in the game."
The space where the spirits appear is always encircled by such a line as
a guard against possible attempts at exposure.